Friday, June 15, 2012

What’s What: White Rock Girl

Dr. Coote crouches on the end of his bed similar to the White Rock Girl to watch the struggle between his friend, Professor Childermass, and a sinister, parasitic creature [The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie; 121-2].

Formed in 1871 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, White Rock Beverages took its name from the nearby natural spring that Indians and settlers believed had special medicinal powers. The company soon took to bottling and distributing this spring water; later they began bottling soft drinks as well.

According to, executives back in the 1890's wanted a trademark that would “reflect the clear, sparkling purity of their product.” During the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago a painting by Paul Thurman of the mythological figure Psyche was discovered. Thus, Psyche became the White Rock Girl: the “goddess of purity, bending over a crystal clear spring perfectly symbolized the purity of the sparkling water which was being bottled directly from the renowned spring...where the water bubbles up through 1,400 feet of alabaster white rock.”

Who was Psyche? The daughter of an ancient king, Psyche was so beautiful that she aroused the envy of the goddess Venus. The goddess sent her son, Cupid, to dispose of this potential rival but things didn’t go quite to plan: Cupid fell in love with her. Things didn’t fare well for the beautiful maiden at this point, what with Venus testing her diligence with four seemingly impossible tasks. Thanks to supernatural intervention, Psyche survived, drank a cup of magical ambrosia, and became a goddess herself. (Venus eventually gave in and allowed the kids to marry, and they had at least one child named Barry who  wait, that's not it.)

In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul and often portrayed with butterfly wings (because her name is also the Greek word for butterfly. Go figure.). Over the years the White Rock Girl image has become “longer legged” and “slimmer hipped” – keeping her as in vogue as possible, we suppose.

Brad Strickland once noted how his references to “nostalgia” were actually the product of research. “I certainly don't find it strange that a reader might want to learn more about the things mentioned in the stories. Sometimes I have to fight, but not very hard, to include some of these. A copy editor objected to my comparing the crouching Dr. Coote to the White Rock girl because no younger readers will remember the ads for White Rock. But really, I think some of them will happen across an old illustration and recognize the girl, and they'll be happy. Others may look her up in books on the history of advertising."

We just helped the cause, too.  Take that, you copy editor, you.

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